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The well-kept secret of the dorpie that retirees love

Posted By Marilynh / March 19, 2020 / 1 Comment

We tried keeping it to ourselves, but we can’t.
We have to share the secret
of this amazing “dorpie” that retirees love!


Swellendam 1200


You’ve probably done it.  We certainly have.  We have driven past this South African town on a number of occasions, never thinking to stop as we make haste on our journey up the Garden Route.  We never even gave it a second thought that this “dorpie” is actually the seventh-oldest town in South Africa, is well-loved by its resident retirees, has evolved over time to become one of the most cosmopolitan spots on the original Cape Trade Route, is steeped in history and is bursting with activities, amazing eateries and incredible stayovers. 

If you are looking for a local destination break, a route-breaker on your way up or down the Garden Route, or even a retirement haven, then this “dorpie” town could be it!  And if you need a reason to go and check it out, they are busy prepping for their Winter School for the second year in a row.

This little beauty of a town is 240km from Cape Town, just off the N2, lies at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains and has become one of the most popular places to retire in recent years.  It is one of the oldest settlements of colonial times and named after Governor Hendrik Swellendgrebel and his wife, Helena Ten Damme.   Where are we talking about?


  The picturesque, charming town of Swellendam




What Swellendam retirees have to say…


Margie Walker had this to say:  

I was an active 70 year old, running my own interior decorating business for 30 years in KZN.  I was looking for a place in which to retire and stumbled upon Swellendam in 2018.  I had never heard of it, but immediately fell in love!

Swellendam ticks all the boxes for me.

  • It is small, but not so small as to be parochial
  • I love the beautiful, peaceful surroundings with nature and game reserves in very close proximity. I love the safe walks and drives  to interesting places…the beach, whales, wine estates, olive estates and more.
  • No water shortages!!
  • The Swellendam residents are friendly and respectful people, and the town is full of creative, positive people.
  • I have become involved with several organisations. The Heritage Society which has interesting visiting speakers and outings, the Friends of the Drostdy museum –  a group whose aim it is to support the museum and raise money for projects, the special caring SPCA where I volunteer.
  • I love the weekly market that provides fantastic fresh produce and home baked goods. The sour dough bread is to die for..!!

I have found an alternative to retail therapy…..many folk (including me now) grow their own vegetables and fruit and it is customary to take a dinner gift of something homegrown to a friend rather than a box of expensive chocolates!!


Margie Walker and Gloria Zimmermann at the official opening of the Donovan Julius Contemporary Art Gallery in Suurbraak


Gloria (69) and Thomas (72) Zimmermann reflect on their first six months of retirement in Swellendam. 

The very first thing that struck us upon moving to Swellendam is the unsurpassed friendliness of the townsfolk – whether being assisted in the shops, polite drivers or just simply walking down the street – one is greeted with a wave or a nod and always a smile. This simple acknowledgement is not only welcoming but indeed, an old- fashioned value, rare in today’s world.

We have found everything we need in Swellendam and lack for nothing.  From fun and trendy restaurants to Gourmet delights, good daily shopping, the best Yoga classes I have ever experienced, a diverse and highly creative community, endless charity organisations looking for volunteers, an excellent Provincial Hospital, great dentists, Nature walks, abound……..and the list goes on.

Peace and tranquillity are the hallmark of Swellendam – you can either choose to be active or just enjoy a good life in this well-run, safe and very welcoming South African town.  In hindsight, it would be difficult to find a better place for retirement.


Gloria and Thomas Zimmermann and friends

Swellendam residents having sundowners with the magnificent Langeberg in the background


Where to stay, when on holiday


Swellendam caters for all budgets and has a lot of variety from guest houses to superhost rated Airbnbs, town centre to farmstay.   Swellendam is fast gaining the reputation of one of the most popular stays in the Cape, one of the reasons being that the guest house hosts are in a class of their own – they are fabulous, generous and good fun!


Intimate, cosy, comfortable. Guesthouse LaRachelle is the perfect choice of accommodation and offers you the opportunity to relax after a busy day exploring Swellendam and its surrounds.  And SA seniors can enjoy a fabulous senior citizen’s package. 


La Rachelle



Gaikou Lodge

Gaikou Lodge is situated in a private, tranquil environment in a nature-lovers paradise. Offering B&B accommodation at the foothills of the Langeberg Mountain, Gaikou Lodge is within walking distance from central Swellendam’s shops, attractions and restaurants. Gaikou Lodge has spectacular mountain views from all 12 rooms set on 16 hectares of lush, green grass within the Marloth Nature Reserve.   Check out their excellent pensioner discount!


Gaikou Lodge

Gaikou Lodge


The Hideaway

Would you like the opportunity of staying in a national monument and one of the oldest Victorian houses in Swellendam?  How would you feel about staying in a guest house that has a reputation of being one of the most charming and elegant guest houses in Swellendam?  And in addition, enjoy a breakfast considered to be one of the best in South Africa.  And  the hostess makes internationally acclaimed shortbread!  Well, you can get all this and even more at this beautiful guest house, The Hideaway B&B in Swellendam.  Oh, and did we mention the pensioner discount!!


The Hideaway

The Hideaway


Oh my, what a choice! 

We have three amazing guest houses to choose from. 

We’re going to have to make three trips to Swellendam
to try all of the above out!


Also offering pensioner discounts in the Swellendam area are
Schoone Oordt, The Hermitage Valley Treehouse,
De Kloof Country Estate
and  The View


Where to eat 

Swellendam boasts a diverse array of eateries from quaint stoep cafes to lunch at the old Gaol, to elegant culinary havens.  Plenty to tantalize the tastebuds. 

  • Reputedly, the best table in the Overberg – don’t miss a meal at  ‘Augusta’s African Kitchen’ with its focus on pan-African cuisine. ‘Augusta’s African Kitchen’ is one of the top places to eat in Swellendam and it reflects the variation and depth of the African continent.
  • Pop in at Ikigai Coffee Bar in Swellendam and say Hey, Hi, Hello to Elandi, a a passionate foodie and connoisseur of a Flat White Coffee… Enjoy her dry wit and sense of humour
  • Enjoy roosterkoek, fresh “moer” coffee and traditional bread at The Old Gaol, now a coffee shop and art gallery.
  • Rooiklip in Swellendam is an Aloe specialist nursery and has a big range of the world’s most beautiful Succulents, Aloes and Cycads on display and for sale. … While you are busy taking in the beautiful plants on display, drop in at Beleef Coffee Shop which proudly serves Clock Peaks Coffee (local coffee) in all its forms. They have a wonderful cake selection and other interesting dishes. Remember pensioners Tuesday at Rooiklip with 10% discount to Swellendam seniors!


Check this out: 

  • The NG Moederkerk is a unique mix of Baroque, Gothic, Cape Dutch and Asian architectural styles. It was built in 1911, and the tower is a replica of one in Belgium.
  • The Drostdy Museum, an 18th century national monument, is well worth a visit, and to prove its worth, holds the 2014 title of Best Museum in the Western Cape.
  • There is a historic quarter around the Drostdy with a plethora of art galleries, museums, shops and eateries.
  • While you are strolling around Swellendam, take the time to check out this real gem – the Bokmakiri Bookshop, specialising in collectable books and selling new and secondhand books with a good selection of art and botany books, Afrikaans and English fiction, drama and poetry.  The owner Eduan has clients coming from far and wide, has wonderful talks given by authors, and even makes his shop available for weekly French lessons!
  • All parking is free in Swellendam!  No car guards!  No traffic lights!  No traffic jams!  Just joggers and people walking their dogs!
  • No need to do your shopping at home.  The SwellenMark Shopping Centre has everything you need!


Swellenmark Shopping Centre

Swellenmark Shopping Centre



Don’t miss these activities!

  • Explore “Under the Oaks”, a small country craft and food market, where all products are locally made or grown. Taking place every Saturday from 9am to 2pm. 
  • Walking trails through fynbos in the Marloth Nature Reserve, one of the best birding spots in the Western Cape.
  • A visit to the Bontebok National Park, home to the rare bontebok and to 126 different species of birds.
  • An Umshanti boat trip where you can cruise on a double decker barge, park in the gorge where you can braai, take a canoe trip to the waterfall, hike up the mountain, swim or just relax
  • Visit the Donovan Julies Contemporary Art Gallery, in the Main Road, near the Braak in Suurbraak to see the work of Donovan Julius, an artist, who has a passion for his community and the local people as well as his Khoi heritage.
  • Enjoy the “Wildebraam Experience” at the Wildebraam Berry Estate. Pick your own berries during November to January, and learn the intricacies of liqueur making and berry farming, and while you are there, take the opportunity to taste ten unique South African Liqueurs.
  • Experience a local shebeen, taste traditional Xhosa beer and meet a local Sangoma – all on the Railton Township Tour with Meisie Bokwana
  • And no trip to Swellendam is complete unless you have gone to Sulina’s Faerie and Angel Healing Sanctuary… dedicated to the protection and preservation of all the little faeries who peep playfully from flower petals and small crevices in this beautiful garden, a mystical throwback to Never Never Land.
  • If you are itching to have a game of golf in what is arguably one of the most picturesque golf courses in South Africa, then book your spot at the nine-hole, 72-par golf course and take in the breathtaking vista!


Proud Khoi artist and activist Donovan Julius


We are only touching the surface of what is available in Swellendam, but if you need another reason to visit this extraordinary place, consider signing up for the Swellendam Winter School!  More about the SWS in YEI’s next newsletter but suffice to say for the moment that you can expect the kind of School that you only dreamt about when you were a child!  None of that boring stuff, only activities that you will never find in a mainstream curriculum!  And all brought to you by the local Swellendam legends as well as internationally renowned figures who make up the gifted artists, talented musicians, creative writers, enthusiastic hobbyists, crazy adventurers, knowledgeable experts, inspiring entrepreneurs, meditation muses – in other words, the residents of the unique, amazing dorpie of Swellendam!  See you there!


Relevant articles and listings


Guesthouse LaRachelle

The Hideaway

Gaikou Lodge


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One Comment

  • Devereux
    March 12, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    I spend some time in Swellendam just yesterday! I grew up in Riversdale (about 82.5 kms away) and my parents drove through Swellendam every time they went to Cape Town. I do not like the new layout of the N2 highway which misses driving through Swellendam., So on our trip from PE to Cape Town over the weekend, I asked my kids to take the scenic route through the town.
    I actually had to catch the Intercape bus back from Swellendam to PE yesterday, and was thinking how nice it would be to retire there. And this morning I read your newsletter about the exact same thing!!!! Karma……………
    So I am thinking, does anybody have a contact person I can contact in the Southern/Western Cape who will be able to give me details about retirement villages along the Southern Cape coast where you can actually put your name on a waiting list to RENT a unit. I know there are countless villages where you can buy, but I want to rent.

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